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Tricks to teaching (and learning) a new game

Saturday, April 26, 2014 - 12:01 am

Our family loves trying new games. Unwrapping the box, punching out the counters, organizing the pieces -- it all leads up to that most exciting of moments: Learning the rules and figuring out how to play.

In case you wondered, I said that with a straight face. Really.

Learning a new game easier than it looks. Yes, it means learning something new, but you already do that regularly, like when you've got that new set-top cable box or the Blu-Ray disc player connected to your home Internet connection.

It just means stepping outside of your regular comfort zone for a little bit, being willing to make mistakes, and deciding that you want to enjoy time with your kids in a new activity.

Learning from a (video) friend

There are two ways to learn a new game: read the rules and figure it out on your own or have a friend teach you.

Learning the game from someone else is usually the easiest way to do it, provided you have friends who enjoy games and have the ability to teach them pretty well. (I include YouTube how-to videos and episodes of Wil Wheaton's TableTop in this category, too.)

If you buy your games from a local game store, ask them for help. The staff at the store can often teach you to play the game or can direct you to the store's game night where they organize playing and learning sessions. After all, they are the local game experts.

You can't expect that kind of service from a Big Box store like Target or Barnes & Noble, though. To them, games are just another part of their regular inventory, not a potentially life-changing experience in a colorful box.

Teaching yourself

Most of the time, you'll learn games on your own. Luckily, the steps to learning a new game really are easy, and they get easier the more games you learn.

The biggest problem you face is, surprisingly, yourself. Or, more specifically, your ego.

Your ego thinks a lot of you, but that's the little (big?) guy's job. It's your cheerleader and your moral support.

However, your ego gets a little angsty when you're picking up a new skill. At moments like that, you aren't the expert -- you're just a beginner. Unless you have your ego well in hand, you might find that you feel stressed and easily frustrated as you learn the game. You're internalizing a lot of new information during those moments, so your ego may try to sabotage you by toying with your emotions.

The best way to get your ego under control is by embracing your status as a beginner. For some people (yes, myself included), being a beginner at something feels uncomfortable. You don't know what you're doing, you don't know what the terms mean, and you don't really have anyone to ask for help. Ouch.

That's okay. Just accept the feelings as part of your new adventure, embrace them, and then jump in with both feet.

Remember, you're doing all of this for your relationship with your kids. Your kids are worth a lot in your world. They're even worth stepping out of your comfort zone (and getting up off the couch), and feeling a little uncomfortable.

Next time, we'll dive into the step-by-step process of cracking open a new game and figuring out how to play. We might even talk about how to help your kids teach you how to play!

Fort Wayne resident John Kaufeld is a best-selling author, speaker and dad. He enjoys playing games with his family and letting others know about them. You can email him at john@johnkaufeld.com and read more of his work at www.johnkaufeld.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.